Changes to Star Wars Re-Releases: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Now, we finish our miniseries on the changes to the Star Wars trilogy with Return of the Jedi.

Most of the major changes to have happened to this movie occurred toward the beginning while our heroes were rescuing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. A notable change is the musical number that culminates in slave dancer Oola getting fed to the rancor. In the original 1983 release, the song was “Lapti Nek”, while it was changed to “Jedi Rocks” in the 1997 Special Edition.

1983 version:


Among other things, Sy Snootles, who was originally a puppet, was replaced with a CG singer. I personally wasn’t so much bothered by the change of the song as much as the fact that I feel like the 1997 version of the sequence was too interested in showing loving shots of the new CG singers, like the Yuzzum.

In the 1983 version of the scene, most of the emphasis is on Jabba and his lecherous advances toward Oola (Don’t worry, I’m still trying to figure out how hutt-on-twi’lek sex works too), and it was this refusal that led to her getting fed to the rancor. In the Special Edition of the scene, maybe because I was a young lad, I was under the impression Jabba wanted nothing besides Oola dancing closer to himself. Many of the shots of Jabba were removed in the 1997 release, and in those shots you can pretty clearly see what’s on his mind. Also, while it was cool we get to see what is at the bottom of the trapdoor before Luke Skywalker falls in himself, I am not sure if it was really necessary.

Later on we get to the Sarlacc pit. In the original, the Sarlacc was just a giant hole in the ground with “teeth” and a couple tentacles. In the 1997 re-release, the Sarlacc has this sort-of beak with many more tentacles added in with computer graphics.


A side-by-side comparison of the Sarlacc as it appeared in the 1983 version of the film and the 1997 Special Edition.

I personally feel like that despite seeming more like a living creature in the updated scene, the Sarlacc was actually a more frightening presence in the 1983 version of the film. In that way, it was a lot like the wampa in the previous film.

For the rest of the movie, for the most part, the re-releases aren’t any different from the 1983 release. What kind of bothered me was adding Darth Vader shouting “Noooo!” in the 2004 DVD release as he pitched the Emperor down the elevator shaft toward the end.

The most controversial changes happened in the movie’s finale. First, the celebration song was changed from “Yub Nub”. Personally, it didn’t really make me cringe, though I did notice now how the ewok that was drumming on stormtrooper helmets was in beat with “Yub Nub” and not with the new song. In the 1997 release, it looked like the ewok was just randomly drumming on a set of helmets he relieved Imperial soldiers of.

Yub Nub:

DVD/Blu-Ray release:

More than the change to the song, what many fans found most controversial was when we see the ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker. In the 1983 version of the scene, Anakin was played by Sebestian Shaw, the same actor who played Anakin when we see Luke remove Darth Vader’s helmet. However, in the 2004 DVD release, the ghost was changed to be Hayden Chirstensen, who played Anakin in Episodes II and III.

Lucas reasoned that when a Jedi has found his way back to the light side of the Force, their redeemed Force would look like what they did before their fall. Take it how you will. Anakin clearly aged as 24 years have transpired between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi. For that reason, there is nothing wrong with an older Anakin. I feel like instead, they should have cast someone who looked more like Sebastian Shaw (and was a better actor) than Hayden Christensen in the prequels, but that’s just me I guess.

Thus ends my rant on the changes to Star Wars original trilogy in the prequels. Lucas made a large number of changes, but the three most recent posts I wrote highlighted the ones I felt jumped out at me most. Feel free to drop us a comment about what you think about Star Wars and George Lucas’ editing.